When you have farm critters, you have good reason for paranoia

A grey and white cat standing on top of a toilet, small black dog peeking over the side of a bathtub.
Do you ever have the feeling you are being watched? When you share your home with a variety of critters, you are always under observation. | Photo by Julia Bayly

You know that old saying, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get you”?  Well, here on Rusty Metal Farm, I don’t think I am being overly paranoid when I say the furry and feathered critters are out to get me.

I mean, I’ve seen the movies like “Chicken Run,” plus I have read George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” more than once. So, I am perfectly aware of critters’ abilities to plot and scheme. 

The chickens started it. Never let anyone tell you hens are brainless or witless. I am here to say they have plenty of both. And they are capable of organizing with military type strategy. 

Among their favorite mind games to play with is their poultry version of hide and seek. Every night before shutting the hens in their coop, I do a headcount to make sure all are present and accounted for. I do the same before leaving on any trip so I can let my chicken-sitter know how many birds they are tending. 

On a recent trip I got a message from my friend who had been tapped to watch the gals, letting me know that when he was tucking them one night after they had been out for the day he had counted, recounted and re-recounted and there was an extra chicken. One that he swears was not there in the morning because he had also counted before letting them out. 

Yeah, welcome to my world.

The flock has also perfected its stealth ambush mode. One morning, after the previous evening’s coop count tallied as it should, I opened the garage door to get my car out. Imagine the shock and surprise when three chickens came hurtling out straight at me amid much squawking, wing flapping and flying of feathers. I just know they had been there all night, just waiting for me to open that door so they could attack.

Somehow the flock decided which three would lay in wait all night in the garage while the remaining hens would mill about in the coop in such a fashion as to fool my nightly count. Their plan went off flawlessly.

More recently it’s been the pair of Egyptian Fayoumi that have started punking me. These are a smallish, heritage breed hen that lays adorable small eggs. They are also capable of sustained flight and have the loudest, scariest screeches you have ever heard. Forget clucking, these gals sound very much like the pterodactyls in Jurassic Park.

Nothing gives my Egyptian Fayoumi more joy than hiding on something that puts them at the exact same level as my ears. Then, the minute I walk by they let out that prehistoric scream directly into whichever of my ears is facing them and then fly straight up and over my head. It’s gotten so I now twitch whenever I walk past anything four to six feet in height upon which they could be lurking.

Over the years, the cats and dogs of Rusty Metal Farm have gotten into the act in fairly predictable fashions. For awhile we had a hound that loved to hang around whenever we were working on the tractor. More times than I can count, we’d set a tool down, go to pick it up again and it was nowhere to be found. It was if the tool in question had fallen into some sort of wormhole into another dimension. An uncomfortably long period of days went by before we discovered the stash of screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers and other shiny things the hound had hidden behind the garage.

Cats, of course, love to do things like walk between your feet as you climb or descend stairs. Or jump on the back of your chair during a particularly scary part of a movie. Or my favorite: hissing at something only they can see — making you believe there is a ghost or spirit in the house. All of these acts are designed to slowly drive you insane.

But Reggie, Rusty Metal Farm’s curmudgeon-in-residence, has taken things to an entirely new level even for a cat.

One morning I came downstairs and smelled something cooking. Looking around I discovered the stove was on. Reggie, meanwhile was sitting innocently on the couch. Closer inspection of the stove revealed Reggie-sized cat prints over the touch-panel controls. I have since enabled the panel safety lock.

The other night I was woken from a sound sleep by the sound of people talking downstairs. At first I thought I was dreaming. But once fully awake, I could hear a man and then a woman chatting. Talk about terror in the night. Who was in my house? How had they gotten in? 

I held my breath and then recognized the voice of my 90-year-old aunt who lives in Portland, Oregon. Going downstairs, it was obvious Reggie had walked on my digital phone and activated the message playback feature. What I was hearing was the playback of messages going back a couple of weeks.

Reggie also watches me with his huge, feline eyes and I suspect he is charting my slow descent into madness. A descent which he is facilitating, mind you.

I’m dreading the day he and the chickens decide to team up. Not that I’m paranoid.

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